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‘Finally they’re fixing it’: State starts American River Trail cleanup after 2-year wait

See cleanup of American River recreation trail after rock slide

Construction crews clean up a rock slide on the American River bike and recreation trail near Lake Natoma on Tuesday, August 20, 2019 in Orangevale. For nearly three years, cyclists, runners and walkers have had to use an alternative route.
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Construction crews clean up a rock slide on the American River bike and recreation trail near Lake Natoma on Tuesday, August 20, 2019 in Orangevale. For nearly three years, cyclists, runners and walkers have had to use an alternative route.

After more than two years of waiting, the cleanup of a rock slide along the American River Parkway in Orangevale began this week. The project to clear the path on the running and bike trail will take several months to complete, according to California State Parks officials.

“Finally they’re fixing it,” said Dan Hansen, a cyclist who visits the trail regularly to check on repair progress and take pictures of the wildlife in the area. “Virtually every inch of it is beautiful and it follows the river. You can see eagles, hawks, deer, coyotes, bobcats and snakes of every shape and size.”

The closure affects approximately 3.25 miles of trail in Folsom Lake State Recreation Area, from Call Box No. 28, upstream of Hazel Avenue to the south end of Negro Bar. Visitors will not be able to access the trail along the path.

Since the tract closed after being damaged during the winter storms of January and February of 2017, cyclists, runners and walkers had to use an alternative trail that runs on the south side of Lake Natoma.

The entrance to the American River Parkway has been barricaded with cement blocks since. However, Hansen said Tuesday that hasn’t stopped locals from accessing the path.

“It’s been hiked over almost since the beginning,” he said. “There were well worn paths over the dirt.”

Many in the local cycling community were impatient for the work to begin, Hansen said. The route did not just offer beautiful shaded scenery for afternoon visitors, it was a fundamental segment of the trail’s route.

“Since they’ve closed it down ... instead of being able to have a loop and having different directions (to cycle in), you’re stuck on the same thing over and over again,” Hansen said.

State Parks authorities and the Central California Area Office of the Bureau of Reclamation began planning the cleanup project around August of 2017. However, they didn’t have the money to do the work.

“For a couple years now it has been very challenging for State Parks and Reclamation to identify the funding needed to remove the debris and fix the hillside for safety purposes,” said Lee Mao, the bureau’s deputy area manager.

The project was financed through the Federal-Aid Highway Program, a nationwide financial assistance program usually exclusive to highway construction, Mao said.

Forward progress was also delayed when a pair of bald eagles nested in the pines above Lake Natoma.

State Parks and the Bureau of Reclamation partnered with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services to ensure the welfare of the eagles and plan construction around their expected departure.

The latest eaglettes hatched around May, Mao said. The eagles left in July, giving officials about three months to complete the project before they are expected to come back in November or December.

“The eagles’ nest is a success story for the three agencies,” Mao said. “We’ve been able to have eaglettes fledge for three years in a row.”

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